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Mar 27 2014

Sarah Silverman Has Some Thoughts on Barbie (Warning: NSFK!)

By at 1:54 pm

sarah-silverman

Sarah Silverman has strong feelings about Barbie. “Sexy dolls are great for little girls!” the funny girl posted on her Facebook page recently.

Watch her explain why in this amazing video: Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 9 2013

Why Does My Daughter’s Barbie Come With Sexy Lingerie?

By at 12:13 pm

barbie on the beachThat line about how you’re a great parent until you have kids has its kernel of truth–or at least of good intention. I started off–umpteen years ago, as my eldest is 17–very clear: no guns, no Barbies, no blue-for-boys, pink-for-girls, no television. I’ll cut to the chase: the mighty have so fallen. And also, phew, the mighty have fallen.

I don’t regret no screens or my attempt to ensure my firstborn boy had a truck and a doll. It turned out he played with neither of those toys. He lacked the so-called “transportation gene” I’d been assured all boys had. He wasn’t terribly interested in nurturing a baby doll or his stuffed animals. He liked books. I’m a writer and his dad is an antiquarian book dealer. We were fine with books, lots of them. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 26 2012

Why Do I Hate American Girl Dolls?

By at 9:47 am

It’s actually not that bad. In fact, it’s not bad at all. Yet it’s driving me nuts.

I’m talking about my daughters’ obsession with American Girl Dolls, and my reluctant complicity in all of it.

My older daughter is turning 4 this week, and she has spent a shocking amount of time recently paging through the catalogue (how the hell did we end up on that mailing list?), pondering the possibilities and repeatedly coming back to the baby–the baby in the blue ballerina dress. That’s definitely the one, according to both of my girls. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 14 2012

Raggedy Ann’s Trip to the E.R.

By at 1:01 pm

We’re excited to bring a new feature to Kveller: story slideshows! Our first one is the action-packed tale of Baby Eva and her attempt to save close friend, Raggedy Ann. Click through the pictures and be sure to read the captions. If you have your own idea for a story slideshow, send an email our way at info@kveller.com. Enjoy!

Jan 5 2012

A Jewish Dad Looks at Jewish Dolls for Jewish Girls

By at 3:37 pm

For generations, Jewish girls collected and played with their Barbie Dolls. Yes, both Barbie and Ken looked quite Aryan but I don’t believe many little Jewish girls were complaining about their dolls’ non-Semitic looks. Now, all of a sudden, there is a plethora of very Jewish looking dolls on the market. I know this because I was escorted through the American Girl Place in Chicago this past August by my own little Jewish doll. She grabbed me by the hand and dragged (yes, dragged) me past dozens of dolls to show me the elaborate display of American Girl’s answer to religious pluralism. And that’s when I met Rebecca Rubin for the first time.

rebecca rubin doll

Rebecca Rubin is not a stereotypical Jewish girl. At least not from this century! She’s a cute little brunette growing up in New York City in 1914 (think Fievel from “American Tale” but a little girl instead of a mouse). Rebecca Rubin now lives with our family. We’ve adopted her, but she’s maintained her Rubin surname and Lower East Side Depression-era attire.

As if Rebecca Rubin doesn’t look quintessentially Jewish enough, my daughter can beJEWel her even more until this doll has been tricked out with the Jewy-ist accoutrements imaginable. For $68 (that’s not a typo), Rebecca can enjoy a beautiful Shabbat with “The Rebecca Rubin Sabbath Set.” (For much less than $68 I can feed my family a delicious Shabbat dinner, complete with brisket and wine.) The Sabbath set is advertised as featuring “everything Rebecca’s family needs to celebrate the Sabbath: A Russian samovar and tray for heating water and serving tea, a tea canister and a ceramic teapot, two glasses, pretend hallah bread and a scalloped cloth, a pair of Sabbath candles that the women in Rebecca’s family ‘light’ before sundown, and two blue candlesticks that were a gift to Rebecca from Mr. Rossi.” Based on the price of the set, I just assumed those candlesticks from Mr. Rossi were real silver and that I wasn’t getting ripped off too badly. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 25 2011

Streetwalker Barbie Has Invaded My Home

By at 1:21 pm

My daughter turned 3 on Sunday. She got a Barbie doll for a present.

She’s obsessed. I’m still reeling.

In the interest of full disclosure, we knew what it was, and we let her have it anyway. While she was napping, I carefully opened enough of the package to recognize that bright pink logo that was burned into my psyche decades ago. I paused for a moment as the voices of fellow hippie-progressive-feminist Mamas rang in my ears, warning me of all the dangers hidden in that box alongside the injection-molded-plastic threat to my daughter’s self esteem, body image, and future ability to establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships.

But those warnings were quickly replaced by memories of how much I enjoyed playing with Barbies as a young girl—my sister and I dressed our Barbies, combed their hair, and enjoyed tormenting each other by stealing and hiding each others’ dolls. And then I remembered my own daughter’s first encounter with a Barbie; she was about 14 months old, and there was one in the toy area of the local pediatric Emergency Room. Frieda was hopped up on inhaled steroids after a nasty bout of croup, and she fell in love with that doll with a passion I hadn’t previously seen. How could I deny her such love again? How bad could it be?

You have no idea. I had no idea.

This Barbie is a straight up streetwalker. Or at least she looks like one. I’m surprised she didn’t come with a tiny wad of cash. I was disgusted (but not shocked) by the bizarre proportions of her body, and stunned by how hyper-sexualized she is. I think that’s the hardest part about it for me. I don’t mind the pink and the sprinkles and the rhinestones that have captured my daughter’s imagination, but this Barbie isn’t about glitter and fairy wings. She’s wearing a low-cut halter top and a mini-skirt that is so short and tight that the tiny strip of Velcro barely holding it closed instantly rips open every time my daughter tries to get her to sit. Her hair is a long, tangled hive of peroxide, her makeup would rival Tammy Faye Baker’s any day, and her shoes are a bizarre mix of gladiator sandal and stiletto heel.

I’m horrified. My daughter is in heaven.

She’s not thinking about body-image and self-esteem and cultural norms and implicit messages about the value of women. She’s not worried about pre-marital sex and STDs and eating disorders and addiction and all of the dangers awaiting my daughters in just a few short years—threats that I like to pretend I can keep at bay if only I can keep the damn Barbies out of the house. She sees a pretty doll in shiny clothes. Barbie is her friend, she tells me.

And now Barbie is in our home. And my husband and I have to figure out what to do. Kicking her to the curb doesn’t seem like the answer, primarily because our experience with our feisty daughter (and the rest of humanity, for that matter) tells us that the more verboten Barbie is, the more desirable she becomes. So, instead of hiding Barbie and telling my daughter that she’s taking a really long nap, I’m trying to engage Frieda in an on-going dialogue about body shapes and clothing and sensible footwear. We’ll get to the body image and sexuality stuff soon enough.

We’ve had conversations about how Barbie is skinny and hard, which makes her uncomfortable to snuggle. We’re talking about how hard it must be for Barbie to walk in her high heels, and that she can’t run and play in those shoes. And although Frieda was willing to concede that Barbie might be cold and could use a sweatshirt, she refuses to let go of the slutty halter-top, arguing that it is a lot like a tank-top. My daughter’s obsession with sleeveless shirts predates Barbie’s arrival in our home by several months. She wants to wear a tank top every day (which is getting trickier as winter approaches), and feels an instant kinship with anyone (real or plastic) wearing anything that vaguely resembles a tank top. So, I decided to compromise on this one. Last night I went online and found some inexpensive, hand-made tank-top dresses that are fairly modest—no cleavage showing, the skirts are nice and long, and I suspect Barbie could run and play in comfort, assuming we could find some running shoes that will fit on her poor damaged feet.

I’m starting to feel better about the situation, but I also worry that a Pandora’s Box has been opened in our little home, one that we’ll never be able to fully contain it again. I suppose this is the nature of our children growing up, and of my husband and I growing into parenthood. We’re not raising our daughters in a vacuum, nor would I want to. I try to see these Barbie moments as grist for the mill, fodder for an ongoing dialogue about ourselves, our relationships, our belongings, and our values.

I still wish Barbie didn’t have to look like such a tramp, though.

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